Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know the issue of pay inequality has been grabbing headlines around the country for quite some time now. Ever since RTE made the news because of their biggest stars salaries,  we’ve all become aware of the fact that women are being paid significantly less than men at the national broadcaster.

The controversy kicked off in August  when it emerged that newsreader Sharon Ni Bheolain, earns €80,000 less than her co anchor Bryan Dobson. Even more tellingly it became apparent that only three women, Miriam O’ Callaghan, Marian Finucane and Claire Byrne are the only women in RTE’s top ten earners list.

The response to the news was that of anger and it galvanised groups of women across the country to argue for equal pay and recognition for doing the same work as their male counterparts.

It’s not just an Irish predicament it seems, staff at the BBC have a similar problem with the highest earning man Chris Evans earning between £2.2m and £2.25m, while the highest paid female Claudia Winkleman earned between £450,000 and £500,000.

Irish actress Rebecca O Mara who stars in Line of Duty, one of BBC’s most popular dramas, has spoken candidly about her experiences. The 39-year-old originally from Sandycove in Dublin recently told The Independent newspaper that Irish actresses have been facing difficulty in this area for many years.

” In the past, I’ve certainly been paid less than men who had the same size, if not smaller, roles than me, in theatre in the UK and in Ireland”. She goes on to explain that pay has been at the discretion of whoever runs the company.

“A lot of those people have tended to be white middle-class men driven by male bias, which may be conscious or unconscious, creating inequality on every level of theatre production”.

Again her points highlight that broadcasters, in particular, seem to be under fire and both claim to be ‘reviewing the role of gender and equality’, but is this just a problem in TV land or does the gender pay gap affect each and every working woman?

To get an answer it’s helpful to look at the statistics. According to Eurostat, the average gender pay gap in Ireland is 16%. So what is it that is contributing to this inequality – and why is it that women are being paid less money than men?

Is it down to work quality, commitment or, if we are being totally honest, is it down to the responsibility of motherhood and the maternity leaves that come with it? Are women missing opportunities simply because they choose to start families?

Surely if a man can have a family and get paid a decent wage, then a woman should be able to do the same.

One direct correlation is again something that is laid at our government’s doorstep. The cost of childcare is contributing to the fact that parents often have to choose which one of them will work because of the exorbitant cost of daycare.

Typically the father works and the mother stays at home  – and perhaps its this image of the man working and the woman as the primary caregiver that is adding to the belief that women can be paid less than a male with the same qualifications and job title

One industry that is interesting to look at when discussing this topic is book publishing. which has mostly female workers – one would expect that equal pay would be a given in this sector. However, a recent survey shows that the gender pay gap is still at 15.6% and most worryingly it has only marginally improved since 2013 when the gap was 16%.

Suzanne Collier of bookcareers.com, who conducted the survey says that people also need to take into account the fact that seniority could be a factor in these gaps “Many men who took the survey are employed in management and senior roles, and many women appear to be in lower roles, which are paying less.For an industry where over 80% of respondents are women,  it is disappointing that a gender gap appears at all”.

She raises an interesting point,  is it because men tend to have senior management roles that the gap is so obvious?

Recruitment Specialists Talentful, have performed an in depth study of CEO’s and their salaries. They looked at 108 Fortune 1000 companies to establish gender trends at senior level. The biggest stat that jumps out is that there are only 54 women listed on the list of 1000 ceos. Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo CEO and Safra Catz, the CEO of Oracle are the best-known names on the list.

 It’s worrying to look at the information around education that is also shown on the report. There were 21 males who had an MBA ( Master of Business Administration ), while 25 of the females held the same qualification.  This shows us that women are striving to educate themselves, so why are they are then still stuck in middle management?  Does the glass ceiling still exist?

It comes down to an attitude and belief, we need to move away from the archaic image of “the boss” as a man in a suit and open our minds to other possibilities. And as long as Sharon Ni Bheolain sits beside Bryan Dobson each night doing the same job for less money,  this will continue to raise eyebrows.

Women have found a voice through social media and online activism is boosting women’s rights issues –especially around pay equality.

Speaking out is becoming the norm but how can we enact real change?  For one there needs to be an alteration in what is defined as a “male job ” and a “female job”. For example, manual jobs are always associated with males.

I was recently pleasantly surprised to see a female electrician doing a job in a building where I worked. Equally, I am happy that there is a male childcare assistant in a creche close to my home.

This needs to become something that’s the norm and instead, roles should become gender fluid. Yes we are getting there but we now need to stand up and break glass ceilings and realise that regardless of gender, people who are in equal positions should be paid equal money, there should be no other option.

Photo Credit: Protest Image by Kate Sleet

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